Once a week, a group of Egyptian women gather at a forgotten park outside of Cairo. There, they begin to run, jump and climb over walls and objects.
The women are enjoying the sport of parkour. But the activity is very unusual for women in the socially conservative country.
The sport of parkour started in France in the 1980s. Its name comes from the French word ‘parcours’ (course or route). It involves moving through a city setting as fast as possible by running, climbing and jumping over, around or under any barrier in a path.
The women have met every week for the past six months. Together, they hope to form Egypt’s first professional parkour team.
Ten women took part in a recent training that centered on building upper body strength. They also learned different methods of dealing with surroundings.
A crowd often forms to watch the women train. Egyptians are not used to seeing women playing sports in such an open, public area. Sometimes people take pictures or videos.
Zayneb Helal is one of the parkour players. She told the Reuters news agency, “It is natural that people did not accept it because they were not used to it. They did not accept the idea that girls could play sports, let alone on the street.”
It is not common for women to play such sports on the streets in Egypt. A 2017 Thomson Reuters Foundation study on how women are treated in the world’s biggest cities rated Cairo as the world’s most dangerous “megacity” for women.
Mohamed Omran guides the women in the training. They train hard on climbing barriers, landing correctly after jumps, and noticing possibilities in the buildings around them.
“Women are now training and more women are starting to come,” Omran said. “As the sport spreads, the acceptance of women training increases and it is not unusual for women to have a team and train,” he added.
Parkour is not a common sport in Egypt. It has no governing group. But Parkour Egypt, a group made up of women and men, has grown quickly after starting off with just a few players.
Helal said, “It needs more time to evolve and the sport needs to spread more so that people would learn about it.”
Last year, Britain became the first country to officially recognize parkour as a sport.
I’m Ashley Thompson.
Reuters reported this story. Ashley Thompson adapted it for Learning English. Caty Weaver was the editor.
Words in This Story
megacity - n. a very large city
evolve - v. to change or develop slowly often into a better, more complex, or more advanced state : to develop by a process of evolution